Keen readers will notice the change to the portfolio on the right hand side for the first time in a month. Guido has just shorted FTSE futures and Dow futures. Combination of bad local news and a sense that there is a mood of bailout fatigue in the U.S. There is usually a “Santa Claus rally” in the markets at year end. Not sure Santa is going to come this year…
Hyperbole? The government bond markets will enslave the citizens and subjects who pay the taxes that service their demands as surely as feudal barons demanded their lands were ploughed for their table by serfs. It is stunning that Brown’s policies have cost HM Treasury, in real terms, more than it took to defeat the Luftwaffe and the Wehrmacht. The debt obligations of the state will be £2 trillion within a few years, Gordon ignores the unfunded pensions of his bloated public sector bureaucracy and admits to “only” £1 trillion. The long term consequences of a debt burden as great as this are that Britain will have a permanently low growth economy. If, as is most likely, predominantly foreign investors hold government bonds, higher taxes will reduce the available capital which can be put to productive use in the domestic economy because the interest paid is exported. That is if they are not too worried about Britain going bust to invest at all. The chart above (click to enlarge) shows the cost of insuring in the credit default swap market against the U.K. government going bust is nearly triple the German rate. British Gilts are becoming the junk bonds of the G7.
Do people want to live in a country designed by Gordon Brown, as cheered on this morning by Polly Toynbee, Will Hutton and Roy Hattersley? Is there a prospect on the horizon of a radical government which can arrest the inevitable decline? Is there a Thatcher-like political leader who can turn around the super-taxer-tanker of state? Guido suspects a lot of internationally mobile people will be weighing up the prospects and possibly heading for the exits soon.
UPDATE : From The Times this morning; “In recent years, thousands of educated Australians have come to the UK. Immigration has been the start of a career, not a gap year, it adds. So there should be some alarm at the fact that they are heading back home in ever larger numbers: 2,700 a month compared to 1,750 a month in 2005. This is largely a vote of no confidence in the old country.”
Australia runs a budget surplus, has paid down the national debt in the good years and welcomes skilled migrants. Form an orderly queue.
Elsewhere fund managers are seeking a quick resolution of Lehmans bankruptcy issues, billions remain frozen in accounts resulting in margin calls on fund managers unable to retrieve securities from the Lehmans administrator – making them forced sellers and an extra downward pressure on London’s markets. The FSA or the Bank of England needs to untangle this mess urgently. Unfortunately it is unclear who has responsibility under Gordon’s regulatory regime.
City law firms are dusting off old legal tomes from the seventies on sovereign defaults – when countries go into bankruptcy – Iceland is on the edge. What will surprise many is that Italy is the second candidate for bankruptcy. How will the Euro survive a member country’s financial collapse? Italy has cooked the books since before even joining the euro. Bond markets know it, the wide spread between Italian government bonds and German government bonds shows that many believe that European unity will not include the Bundesbank standing behind Italian Buoni del. Tesoro Pluriennali. If Italy fails what happens to the European project?
So how many shares opened up this morning? None.
Hat-tip : Alphaville
Trevor Kavanagh this morning points out that the collapse of Britain’s banks was not inevitable, “it hasn’t happened in Canada, Australia or Sweden”. So much for Britain being uniquely placed to weather the financial storm. Gordon designed the regulatory system, Gordon allowed the property bubble to inflate. Gordon’s bubble has now popped.
Gordon is spinning that he is leading the world, either he is delusional or deliberately lying, in Europe they are calling the EU-wide rescue plan the “Sarkozy solution”. If any country can honestly claim leadership, it is actually Sweden, the EU plan being based on a nineties solution to a Swedish banking crisis. Gordon, for some reason, needs us to believe he is saving the world.
Listening to Will Hutton and Polly Toynbee you would think they were actually monetary economists when in reality they are just soundbite savvy talking heads spouting the latest fashions of the metropolitan media elite. Both property millionaires in their own right, three-houses-Polly and Hutton have substantial family stakes in the property market. If they had such great economic foresight would they have got so badly caught out? Rumours circulate as to the viability of Mrs Hutton’s extensive property portfolio.
Toynbee has now realised that Gordon is staying and that her flirtation with David Miliband was just a passing fancy. Her tune has changed, now saying (once again) that Brown is the man for our times when only weeks ago she was telling the cabinet they were spineless not to get rid of him. Laughable.
Polly’s advice and economic genius is as suspect and as reliable as her loyalty to whichever politician she is championing this month. At the beginning of the year she was still loyal to Gordon and chiding Cameron for his new year message which she claimed
smacks of callow point-scoring, with his five repetitions of “Labour’s hopeless” – and it will look even thinner in retrospect in a year’s time if Brown has steered through economic rapids without most voters feeling any adverse effect.
She was confidently predicting
A minor slowdown with neither inflation* nor unemployment rising will see Brown’s old “no boom or bust” boasts triumph this time next year.
Guido suggests we leave Polly and Will to their studio soundbites and ignore their siren voices – they have been advocating their brand of redistributive social democracy as the solution to everything for decades. If policy makers are looking for guidance on avoiding a depression (alas a recession is upon us already) they should dust off the works of Ludwig von Mises and Milton Friedman – Mises wrote the seminal “The Theory of Money and Credit“. If this book had been read by more central bankers outside the Bundesbank we would not be in this mess. Guido once listened to an LSE lecture by a Bundesbank board member speaking in reverential tones about Mises’ thinking. He is the high priest of monetary theory.
If history is not to repeat itself then reading Friedman’s “The Great Contraction, 1929-1933” should be a priority. If you think this is irrelevant to the state we are in you should note that the current Federal Reserve chairman, Ben Bernanke, pays tribute to this work and is quoted in the introduction to the current edition. Whereas Mises is heavy going, Friedman and Schwartz are essential reading.
Guido can summarise the primary policy response to the situation we are in succintly : cut interest rates, to lessen the pain of the inevitable reckoning.
Lehman’s bonds are trading at 13c on the dollar – and there is $128 billion in bonds outstanding. The banking system is looking at booking a $100 billion hit today. There are an estimated 350 counterparties and nearly 2000 related securities.
Guido thinks that Greenspan could have been right on this, the risk has been distributed, it will hurt, hopefully only just wounds rather than causing major fatalities. If it goes smoothly we could be looking at a monster relief rally… but it is still a bear market…
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Lord Tebbit has his say on ‘aggressive homosexuals’:
“Why shouldn’t a mother marry her daughter? Why shouldn’t two elderly sisters living together marry each other? I quite fancy my brother!”